Week of April 13, 2015

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When it’s your birthday, Helmet Nachos are acceptable.


Why Charles Barkley Once Gained 19 Pounds in 2 Days (On Purpose)

Unrelated to the above photo, this is a great story about Charles Barkley. We’ll get out of the way and let Charles tell it:

“Back in my day we had a hard salary cap so you could not go over the salary cap like you can today and the Sixers had the No. 5 pick in the draft. I left college after three years and in fairness, I was fat in college. I played at 300 pounds. The Sixers called me a month before the draft and said, “We want you to get down to 285 pounds and come in before the draft.” So I get down to 283 and the night before we fly into Philly my agent said, “You do know if the Sixers draft you they are going to give you $75,000,  right?”  I said, “Dude, I didn’t leave college for $75,000. We have a problem.” He said, “You weigh about 283 now. What do you want to do? You beat their weight limit.” I said, “Let’s go out.”

So we went to Dennys and I had like two Grand Slam breakfasts. We went to lunch and I had like two big barbeque sandwiches. That night we went to a big steakhouse. The next morning I had two more Grand Slam breakfasts and when we flew to Philly, I weighed 302. I was like, Thank goodness, the Sixers are not going to draft me. So when you look at my face when commissioner [David] Stern says ‘With the fifth pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Charles Barkley,’ I was like, ‘Oh, sh–.’ When people go back and look at me walking, and they see that awful burgundy suit, everybody else is happy and Charles isn’t happy. But it worked out great. The most important person in my basketball career was Moses Malone and he got me down to under 250 pounds and the rest is history.”

Classic Chuck. -TOB

PAL: If for nothing else, read through Barkley’s transcript to see a dude who can get onto a tangent faster than a dog gets on a dropped piece of steak. In response as to whether he will accept an invitation to the Sloan Conference (an advanced metrics gathering), he said the following:

“They just charge you more calling them analytics but they are just stats. It’s kind of like, if you are black, you are a cook and if you are white, you are a chef. The chef gets paid a lot more than the cook (laughs). But my big rule is if people should be able to take a joke … Everyone knows Muhammad Ali is a hero of mine. So is Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. I did some research on Abe Lincoln when that movie came out. There are a lot of great men. But when they asked me for some great Americans, I said Colonel Sanders.”

Source: Charles Barkley Talks Fame, Social Media, at SXSW”, Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated (04/12/2015)


Curt Schilling Message to Himself at 16: Don’t Chew Tobacco

I’m not a fan of Curt Schilling. He’s a blowhard. But this should be mandatory reading for all people who chew tobacco, and all teenagers and their parents. Curt Schilling chewed tobacco for decades. It gave him cancer. He is still here, but there’s no way to know if the cancer will come back. Here, Curt writes a letter to his 16-year old self, urging himself to never start the habit. It’s a very powerful essay, written by someone who has stared his own mortality in the face. -TOB

Source: Letter to My Younger Self”, Curt Schilling, The Players’ Tribune (04/11/2015)


Bonds on A-Rod…But Really on Himself.

I have always liked Barry Bonds. I have never liked Alex Rodriguez. This makes their new-found friendship a conundrum for me. Barry helped A-Rod during his hiatus and is supportive of A-Rod’s pursuit of home run milestones. So how do I reconcile this? I have mostly ignored it. My dislike of A-Rod has nothing to do with steroids (as I’ve said here before, I don’t care about that). But in reading this article about Barry and his feelings on A-Rod’s return – it’s striking how Barry’s plea to give Alex a chance is really a plea to give Barry a chance. For example: “Why the hate? Why hate on something you’re paying to see? I don’t understand it. He’s entertaining us…I wish life wasn’t like that…This guy is not running for president of the United States. He’s not running for commissioner. We’re not running for political office. We’re just ballplayers. We’re not God. We’re imperfect people. We’re human beings.” Poor Barry. Just elect the greatest hitter of all-time to the damn Hall of Fame, will ya? -TOB

Source: “Barry Bonds on A-Rod: ‘I can’t wait until he hits 660’”, Bob Nightengale, USA Today (04/13/2015)

PAL: First off, I think TOB and I need to have a good ol’ debate about the Hall of Fame (I don’t think Bonds, ARod, Pete Rose, Sosa, Palmerio, etc. should be in). Secondly, I agree with TOB in that Bonds’ support for ARod is a plea for himself. I would also add that Bonds’ support is conditional, in that he knows ARod will never challenge his home run record.


Matt Barnes: Future Sacramento Mayor?

Well, that’s his life goal, anyways. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I read that. I’ve never liked Matt Barnes. He’s a punk. He was a punk in high school, and college, and in the NBA. But I read this story, and I’m glad I did. It gives a lot of insight into an athlete that has many layers and wears his emotions on his sleeve. For example:

“We get paid a lot of money to play basketball. But what I want to let people know is that we’re still human. We’re still going through day to day struggles that everybody else goes through, but for two and a half hours, when you see us on TV, we have to act like we have the most amazing life in the world.” He pauses. “A lot of people don’t give a s— and I get that. They’re paying a lot of money to come see us play and we get a lot of money, so f— your human side.”

Matt Barnes may never be the mayor of Sacramento, but I understand him a bit more after reading this. -TOB

Source: The Clippers Polarizing Pariah Who Tells It Like It Really Is”, Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated (04/10/2015)

PAL: “And being an a–hole, he knows, is what’s kept him in the league.” Matt Barnes is a goon, and I mean that as a compliment. Every great hockey player has had a goon by his side. Teams in any sport need an enforcer, someone to keep the edge sharp. You don’t like these guys, and — guess what — you’re not supposed to like them, but they serve an important purpose. It’s a bonus that he seems to have his priorities straight when it comes to his kids, too. His job in the NBA isn’t glamorous, but it’s a necessity for a team to be great.


It’s Not Yet an Ending, And It’s Not Exactly Happy – But This is Great

As you may recall, Bryan Stow is the Giants fan who was beaten nearly to death, in front of his children, four years ago after an Opening Day Dodgers-Giants game at Dodger Stadium. He suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result. Stow has had a long road to recovery. It’s not over, but this week he provided quite the moving moment. On Thursday, Stow threw out the first pitch at the San Jose Giants’ (the San Francisco Giants’ minor league affiliate) game. Stow needed a walker to get out on the field, and he can no longer throw overhand, but damn if he didn’t get it to the catcher’s glove. Great job, Bryan – and good luck in your continued rehabilitation. -TOB

Source: Stow Tosses First Pitch For San Jose Giants Home Opener”, Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury-News (04/16/2015)

PAL: You know what really sucks about this? Bryan Stow is known by millions as the guy that was beaten into a coma in some pointless, drunken brawl outside a baseball game. No one deserves to be defined by what has happened to him or her. I wish him all the best, and I commend the Giants for sticking by him all these years (especially Tim Flannery), but it pisses me off that he’s known for what happened to him.


Video of the Week

Well, that was ridiculous.


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Before we get to the quote of the week, I want to thank Tommy for being a great friend, a pain in the ass in a debate, and a well of inspiration. This guy is a friend who always shows up, a doting father, and a husband who’s ridiculously in love with his wife. He’s doing it right, and I’m lucky to call him my friend. Happy birthday, buddy!

“Damn you people. Go back to your shanties.”

-Shooter McGavin

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Week of November 10, 2014

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Randy Moss: Everything You Actually Want In Your Athlete

“Some players are so good that rooting against them is pointless. Moss was in that category immediately.” We all love the ‘gamer’ athletes. The guys that just grind out base hits, do all the “little things” right, and aren’t afraid to get a little dirty eeking out a win for our team. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what’s better? Usain Bolt in the last 30 meters. LeBron James in the open court. Randy Moss outrunning everything – the coverage and the ball, then slowing down and jumping 5 feet over the defense to make a catch. Here’s the truth: we don’t care if our favorite athletes are nice, or kind, or hard-working, or good husbands or fathers (assuming they aren’t violent, horrible people). We don’t care at all, because the type of person they are has no impact on our lives. What captivates us is someone doing the one thing he or she was put on earth to do, and to see him or her do it so much better and easier than everyone else. And while Moss definitely was an arrogant piece of work at times, he seems like a pretty grounded superstar that’s transitioned into retirement pretty smoothly. Apparently the key is saving money and fishing a lot.  – PAL

Source: “There Will Never Be Another Randy Moss”, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (11/11/14)

TOB Note: A couple lines from this really stand out for me. “If I find out someone doesn’t like Randy Moss and Allen Iverson, it’s a pretty clear sign we could never be real friends…Randy Moss was the type of player that dads didn’t like rooting for. That made it all the more fun.” This is so true for me. I always liked guys the stuffy media would tsk tsk at, and hated the ones they gushed over. So, of course, I loved Moss (and Iverson).


Moving Forward

Last year, NBA player Ryan Anderson’s life was turned upside down when his girlfriend, Gia Allemand, a former Bachelor contestant, committed suicide after the two had a fight. Ryan was the one who found her. Unlike most suicide-related stories, this one focuses on those who remain, namely Anderson. How does one deal with the grief, guilt, and relationships? Anderson has faced all of these questions head-on, and doing so while continuing to excel on the court. I feel a bit of a personal connection to this story, in a degree of separation sort of way. Ryan Anderson is from El Dorado Hills, where my family moved when I was 16. He’s a few years younger than me, but we have more than a few mutual friends, and I’ve met him a couple times in passing. So I read this with much interest, but it’s great even without those connections – a story of someone being dealt an unfathomably terrible blow, but choosing to get up and keep moving forward.  -TOB

Source: Love, Loss, and Survival”, by Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated (11/13/14)

PAL Note: Anderson handles a nightmare situation with vulnerability, grace, and action. As Tommy mentions, I too appreciate that the story focuses as much on what happens to those close to the person as it does on the act itself.


It’s Time to Pay College Football/Basketball Players

After reading this article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it’s hard to argue that college sports is not broken, and that it has been for decades. It’s possible to both acknowledge that college sports needs fixing and still be a fan. But things do need to change. For years, I have wrestled with the understanding that football and men’s basketball players (the only consistent positive revenue sports) deserve to be paid, while also knowing that doing so will change those sports (and all the non-revenue sports that rely on those two sports for funding) forever. Well, too bad. These players risk their long-term physical health and get pushed through toward graduation (if they get that far) with a meaningless degree in b.s. majors. It’s time. A few changes are easy:

  • Education standards must be tougher, so that they actually get a meaningful education.
  • The players should be paid. If that means less scholarships for gymnastics, oh well.
  • Coaches’ salaries should be capped. It’s insane that Coach K makes nearly $10M a year while the schools claim they can’t afford to pay players.
  • Revenue-positive sports should be exempt from Title IX restrictions – it makes no sense to count football and men’s basketball, sports that earn the school money and literally pay for those other sports, as expenditures for Title IX purposes.

College sports are broken. But they are fixable. This shouldn’t be that hard. -TOB

Source: College Athletes of the World Unite”, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jacobin Magazine (11/12/14)

PAL Note: Holy sh*t – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar worked as a groundskeeper at UCLA during spring break. I cannot get over this. I wish I could make the argument that college athletes in revenue-positive sports shouldn’t be paid, and that gymnastics is as valuable as football – that money can’t be the the only metric of value when we’re talking about college athletics – but we are so, so far beyond that point.


Video of the Week

You may have seen highlights of this game before. It is hard to argue that it is not the greatest finish to a high school football game of all-time. A tremendous effort to come from behind on the back of three recovered onside kicks in the last few minutes. Elation, followed by devastation, and some of the greatest lines from any announcer, ever. This version is new – a look back at this crazy game, including interviews with the players, and those announcers, who lived it.


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“God bless you all. And as for you bastards in charge, don’t dream it’s over. Years will come, years will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song. Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world. ”

-The Count